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Is This New Opening A Grabber? (1 Viewer)

TheMightyAz

Mentor
As always I've read it so many times and tinkered with it so many time, it's difficult to separate what I'm reading from the voice I hear in my head. I went back and wrote this before continuing with chapter 2 because I liked the tone I'd set with chapter 2 and thought it would be a good tone to begin the story with:

Yarrod inhaled the hot desert air, unsure he’d filled his lungs with anything substantial. He held its fill for a good while, then breathed out slowly and felt the exhalation brush drying lips, once moist skin baked in seconds. The faint earthy scent of backwoods lingered in his nostrils; so at odds with the surrounding terrain, he regarded it more a memory than a sense.

He closed his eyes and clung on, but the aroma and the image it evoked evaporated. When he finally opened his eyes, the present spilled in, and erased any thought of another place or time. Ideas and memories—like scraps tossed to a well-trained mongrel for simple orders met—looped through his mind as if errant ideas in search of reason. And when all was done and settled, he knew but few things … and knew them well.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
As always I've read it so many times and tinkered with it so many time, it's difficult to separate what I'm reading from the voice I hear in my head. I went back and wrote this before continuing with chapter 2 because I liked the tone I'd set with chapter 2 and thought it would be a good tone to begin the story with:

Yarrod inhaled the hot desert air, unsure he’d filled his lungs with anything substantial.
This start needs some cleaning once the debris has settled a bit. So just tuck my suggestions or questions away for later. Cleaning now would probably not be the best.

There is confusion around “unsure he’d filled his lung with anything substantial”. Because air by definition is not substantial. So it makes me wonder if he breathed in some particle of food or other solid, but then why wouldn’t he know that? Anyway… confusing, I’d use “wholesome” or actually I’m unsure what you want it to mean.

He held its fill for a good while, then breathed out slowly and felt the exhalation brush drying lips, once moist skin baked in seconds.
“Its” referring to “air’s fill”, I think would be better if changed to “He held his fill” maybe? Iunsure on that.

The modifier on “once moist skin baked in seconds” is confusing. I think what you’re after is “Skin that was once moist became baked by the sun in seconds” So… what you’ve got is semi-poetic but if someone read it out loud to you, I think you might see there are some problems with clarity with it. It could be “Once (upon a time) moist baked skin baked in seconds.” Or “Once moist skin baked in seconds (seconds is a thing you can bake in). These are stretches, but pick this up again later, clarify later like I said at the beginning. Give it some time so that you can see this with fresh eyes.

The faint earthy scent of backwoods lingered in his nostrils; so at odds with the surrounding terrain, he regarded it more a memory than a sense.

He closed his eyes and clung on, but the aroma and the image it evoked evaporated. When he finally opened his eyes, the present spilled in, and erased any thought of another place or time. Ideas and memories—like scraps tossed to a well-trained mongrel for simple orders met—
I would take out “for simple orders met” it’s too much layering on a concept that you probably want to be more direct.
looped through his mind as if errant ideas in search of reason.
I think I’d keep with the scraps to a dog metaphor to completion instead of moving into loops and errant ideas metaphors… although it kind of would demonstrate…
And when all was done and settled, he knew but few things … and knew them well.
Hmm. Mysterious, but he sure goes on tangents and/or seems to have a lot he is sensing yet forgetting for someone who knows just a few things and knows them well.

Anyway, you know I think you’re a good writer. You’ve got tons on your plate right now with this story, but does it feel like you need to cement this beginning right now just to feel grounded?

Am I doing the same thing with my current WIP? Whoa, yes! I’ve got a lot going, so what am I doing? Going back to the beginning and re-writing it… man… I will try to post the beginning today, but I think I should move on, I can go back to that beginning later. Oh man….You can too…. Now I’m just talking about me, because I know I should move on quicker if I want to get this written, dang it….
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
This start needs some cleaning once the debris has settled a bit. So just tuck my suggestions or questions away for later. Cleaning now would probably not be the best.

There is confusion around “unsure he’d filled his lung with anything substantial”. Because air by definition is not substantial. So it makes me wonder if he breathed in some particle of food or other solid, but then why wouldn’t he know that? Anyway… confusing, I’d use “wholesome” or actually I’m unsure what you want it to mean.

I'll take a look at this and give it some thought. The focus is meant to be on the lungs feeling filled with air rather than the air itself, but I can see why there's confusion.

“Its” referring to “air’s fill”, I think would be better if changed to “He held his fill” maybe? Iunsure on that.

'its fill' is referring to the lungs but again, I can see why there's confusion. I actually had this one already bookmarked for a slight rethink.

The modifier on “once moist skin baked in seconds” is confusing. I think what you’re after is “Skin that was once moist became baked by the sun in seconds” So… what you’ve got is semi-poetic but if someone read it out loud to you, I think you might see there are some problems with clarity with it. It could be “Once (upon a time) moist baked skin baked in seconds.” Or “Once moist skin baked in seconds (seconds is a thing you can bake in). These are stretches, but pick this up again later, clarify later like I said at the beginning. Give it some time so that you can see this with fresh eyes.

Again, this one I already had bookmarked for a rethink. The skin could be referring to the lips and I need to sort that out. In all honesty though, I don't think there's any confusion with 'once moist skin baked in seconds' just what it's referring to. I'll consider clarifying when I adjust to make sure the skin isn't linked to the lips though.

I would take out “for simple orders met” it’s too much layering on a concept that you probably want to be more direct.

I thought it was a bit long myself but kinda got used to it. It actually fits the situation in that he's following simple orders (the imperative). I will give this a lot of thought though. It's one of those situations I mentioned in which I've read it so many times now it slips by smoothly in my head. Some time and fresh eyes will likely help me spot a lot of these little things in future revisions.

I think I’d keep with the scraps to a dog metaphor to completion instead of moving into loops and errant ideas metaphors… although it kind of would demonstrate…

Will definitely consider this.

Hmm. Mysterious, but he sure goes on tangents and/or seems to have a lot he is sensing yet forgetting for someone who knows just a few things and knows them well.

Anyway, you know I think you’re a good writer. You’ve got tons on your plate right now with this story, but does it feel like you need to cement this beginning right now just to feel grounded?

Am I doing the same thing with my current WIP? Whoa, yes! I’ve got a lot going, so what am I doing? Going back to the beginning and re-writing it… man… I will try to post the beginning today, but I think I should move on, I can go back to that beginning later. Oh man….You can too…. Now I’m just talking about me, because I know I should move on quicker if I want to get this written, dang it….

I hope you don't mind me saying this but this critique impressed me a lot. Exactly the sort of observations I like. :)
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Slight revision in line with Llyralen's points.

Yarrod inhaled the hot desert air, unsure he’d filled his lungs with anything at all. He held it in for a good while, then breathed out slowly and felt the exhalation brush drying lips, his once moistened face baked in seconds. The faint earthy scent of backwoods lingered in his nostrils; so at odds with the surrounding terrain, he regarded it more a memory than a sense.

He closed his eyes and clung on, but the aroma and the image it evoked evaporated. When he finally opened his eyes, the present spilled in, and erased any thought of another place or time. Ideas and memories—as if scraps tossed to a well-trained mongrel—looped through his confused mind. And when all was done and settled, he knew but few things … and knew them well.
 
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Llyralen

Senior Member
Slight revision in line with Llyralen's points.

Yarrod inhaled the hot desert air, unsure he’d filled his lungs with anything at all.
My friend (as I very much regard you), there must be a reason the beginning isn’t quite gelling yet and I suspect it is because you need to continue onwards, see what develops for your characters and then come back here to the beginning when more about them and their quest has become clear. Emotional distance created by time between you and your writing can make what to do clear.

I’m going to give you some more critique. on this opening:

He can’t hold air in or breathe it out slowly if it was nothing at all— so why does he wonder if he took in nothing? Also, air is often all you’ve got plenty of in a desert. Why would you think about your breath unless you had just changed your environment or what you are doing maybe?
He held it in for a good while, then breathed out slowly and felt the exhalation brush drying lips, his once moistened face baked in seconds.
Makes me wonder why his face was moisened?
The faint earthy scent of backwoods lingered in his nostrils; so at odds with the surrounding terrain, he regarded it more a memory than a sense.
Why can he still smell the woods? It makes me think the woods are close or he just left them. Why does he think their smell is a memory? Is it a memory? Or isn’t it?

He closed his eyes and clung on, but the aroma and the image it evoked evaporated. When he finally opened his eyes, the present spilled in, and erased any thought of another place or time.

What present thoughts?

Ideas and memories—as if scraps tossed to a well-trained mongrel—looped through his confused mind.

We’re still in the past.

And when all was done and settled, he knew but few things … and knew them well.

But we the reader are none the wiser. That’s annoying to the reader, makes us feel like we read for nothing. We need some plot to hang onto, we need to know some direction.

I heard someone say something once like “I got into my car” is description. “I got into my car to go get some ice cream” is a quest. Make sure he has intention, motivation. Make sure we know what he wants to do. That’s what a reader needs. You can make it pretty or blunt, either. Which you and I will probably talk more about when it comes to my choices on that. :)
 

Matchu

Senior Member
@Az unchained would be a wonderful thing.

I think you can do it @Az but please allow yourself the space & the time to enjoy your own writing.

Your confidence requires nurturing. Be re-assured you ‘can write’ and leave the edit until after Christmas.

best
 

Turnbull

Senior Member
Yarrod inhaled the hot desert air, unsure he’d filled his lungs with anything substantial. He held its fill for a good while, then breathed out slowly and felt the exhalation brush drying lips, once moist skin baked in seconds. The faint earthy scent of backwoods lingered in his nostrils; so at odds with the surrounding terrain, he regarded it more a memory than a sense.
Hm...when you say his skin was "once moist", what do you mean by that? And if it's hot enough to "bake" him, wouldn't he dehydrate very quickly? Is there a reason why he can smell the backwoods when he's in the desert? Is he sniffing an old shirt?

This might be projecting my preferences, but I recommend getting rid of the "unsure he'd filled..." bit. It's not clear what he's talking about, and having a short sentence lead to a long one sounds nicer and more natural.

He closed his eyes and clung on, but the aroma and the image it evoked evaporated.
I recommend not mentioning an "image" unless you're going to describe what that image is. If it's explained in a previous chapter, maybe mention one or two details (a tree, a person, etc) and then let the thought fade away.
When he finally opened his eyes, the present spilled in, and erased any thought of another place or time. Ideas and memories—like scraps tossed to a well-trained mongrel for simple orders met—looped through his mind as if errant ideas in search of reason. And when all was done and settled, he knew but few things … and knew them well.

Hm....Not sure about this poetic exposition. It's not really calling to mind any visual images, or even much in the way of concrete information about the character. It's just fancy words, imo. Even if you like the poetry, I recommend you get rid of the "mongrel" metaphor, as the reader doesn't yet have an image of the current setting -- the mongrel is an image, but since there isn't a literal dog present, you're unintentionally giving the reader an image of a thing that isn't going to be in the story (as far as I know). It would be better to introduce images that have something to do with where Yarrod is, or what he's going to do next. Like instead of a dog metaphor, you could go with, say, a dance metaphor (assuming of course that he's going to a dance, or wherever).
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
This has changed quite a bit:

Yarrod inhaled deeply the hot desert air, unsure he’d filled his lungs with anything at all. He held it in for a good while, assessed the quality, then breathed out and felt the exhalation brush his drying lips. It had the consistency of powder, the abrasive sting of heavy pollen.

He sneered and ran his tongue along his upper lip, fine cracks already forming. Sand skated over the saddle beside him, that which met resistance slowly built a small bank on one side, and snuck into the saddlebags. He kicked it hard with silver-tipped cowboy boots to clear the sand and then absorbed his surroundings.

“Goddamn it,” he said. “Where the hell am I now?”

Cheeks, only moments before pliable and elastic, began to bake in the sun. He stretched his face against the tautness, tried to defy the elements, but the pervasive heat had its way. A faint earthy scent of backwoods lingered in his nostrils; so at odds with the terrain, he regarded it more a memory than a sense.

“Come on, come on. Think.” He pushed through the vaults in his mind; each door slammed another option lost. “There was … I was … my horse was …”. A tiny bit of something stuck. “A horse, I usually have a horse.”

He closed his eyes and searched again, holding onto the aroma and the image it evoked. There was nothing else, but the memory of a horse grew more substantial, all muscle and smoke, eyes hot coals and bearing down upon an enemy, gunshots ringing out. He clenched his lids, trying to reach out beyond the horse and solidify the location. Anything would do. A feature, a house, a familiar lay of land, a signpost. Nothing, only a white flash and emptiness.

When he finally opened his eyes and the present tumbled in, it erased any thought of another place or time. Ideas and memories—as if scraps tossed to a well-trained mongrel—looped through his mind. And when all was done and settled, he knew but few things … and knew them well.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
This has changed quite a bit:
I didn’t think I admired stubbornness. I was wrong. :)
In general, I like this better. In my opinion there’s a hook and plot—a man in a sweltering desert without a horse, with a memory like Dory’s from Finding Nemo. What will happen next? (You gave the reader this question) In my opinion it’s more alive with fresh imagery. I’m now wondering if contradictory is what you were originally after? We are in the mind of someone whose memory is like a muddy puddle but the plot gives us a reason to swim and get to the other side. Good! I think you’ll need to keep that plot coming, imo.
Yarrod inhaled deeply the hot desert air, unsure he’d filled his lungs with anything at all. He held it in for a good while, assessed the quality, then breathed out and felt the exhalation brush his drying lips. It had the consistency of powder, the abrasive sting of heavy pollen.

I like this. I grew up in a desert, Im not sure I relate to it, but I was never in 115 degree weather and don’t know what it feels like in your lungs that hot, but I like this imagery.

He sneered and ran his tongue along his upper lip, fine cracks already forming. Sand skated over the saddle beside him, that which met resistance slowly built a small bank on one side, and snuck into the saddlebags.

Very nice imagery, works for me. Very tangible.
He kicked it hard with silver-tipped cowboy boots to clear the sand and then absorbed his surroundings.

He kicked the saddle? I pictured it next to him if he is standing. So I pictured it on a horse. Is it on the


“Goddamn it,” he said. “Where the hell am I now?”

Cheeks, only moments before pliable and elastic, began to bake in the sun.
He did have a change in

He stretched his face against the tautness, tried to defy the elements, but the pervasive heat had its way. A faint earthy scent of backwoods lingered in his nostrils; so at odds with the terrain, he regarded it more a memory than a sense.




Is it a memory or is it a sen
“Come on, come on. Think.” He pushed through the vaults in his mind; each door slammed another option lost. “There was … I was … my horse was …”. A tiny bit of something stuck. “A horse, I usually have a horse.”

Good. If I was new to this, I’d think he had
He closed his eyes and searched again, holding onto the aroma and the image it evoked. There was nothing else, but the memory of a horse grew more substantial, all muscle and smoke, eyes hot coals and bearing down upon an enemy, gunshots ringing out. He clenched his lids, trying to reach out beyond the horse and solidify the location. Anything would do. A feature, a house, a familiar lay of land, a signpost. Nothing, only a white flash and emptiness.

When he finally opened his eyes and the present tumbled in, it erased any thought of another place or time. Ideas and memories—as if scraps tossed to a well-trained mongrel—looped through his mind.
What if instead of looping they were eaten by the dog? Because they were eaten up by the present.
And when all was done and settled, he knew but few things … and knew them well.
So infuriating, but you know that probably. Give the reader something more quick so that we don’t feel too toyed with after this line if you really want to use this line.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I didn’t think I admired stubbornness. I was wrong. :)
In general, I like this better. In my opinion there’s a hook and plot—a man in a sweltering desert without a horse, with a memory like Dory’s from Finding Nemo. What will happen next? (You gave the reader this question) In my opinion it’s more alive with fresh imagery. I’m now wondering if contradictory is what you were originally after? We are in the mind of someone whose memory is like a muddy puddle but the plot gives us a reason to swim and get to the other side. Good! I think you’ll need to keep that plot coming, imo.


I like this. I grew up in a desert, Im not sure I relate to it, but I was never in 115 degree weather and don’t know what it feels like in your lungs that hot, but I like this imagery.



Very nice imagery, works for me. Very tangible.


He kicked the saddle? I pictured it next to him if he is standing. So I pictured it on a horse. Is it on the


He did have a change in


Is it a memory or is it a sen

Good. If I was new to this, I’d think he had

What if instead of looping they were eaten by the dog? Because they were eaten up by the present.

So infuriating, but you know that probably. Give the reader something more quick so that we don’t feel too toyed with after this line if you really want to use this line.
What he remembers it what follows. Stitch. Sorrow. The Storm. The Dannuk. The handkerchief. That's the little he knew well. This is third person limited.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Rather than starting a new thread, I thought I'd talk about this here. I've been thinking about this beginning and asking myself some hard questions. If I'm going to have him suddenly appearing in the desert and I'm going to have to explain a little about what happened, then is there any real reason to have him start in the desert? So ... what I'm thinking (for later rewrites) is perhaps I should start the story earlier when he's actually in that forest, on his horse and battling the creature. This would allow me to start with a bang, give more details 'before' he loses all his memories from the current cycle, and doesn't negate the 'wipe' when he's thrown once again into the desert. I'm only toying with this because it throws up some problems of its own.

God, I hate first chapters already.
 

Non Serviam

WF Veterans
You're right to say you need to begin in a different place. I know this because so many first drafts start in the wrong place. It's like a law of nature.

To be perfectly frank the "Yarrod inhaled" line, while fine as an opening for a chapter or scene, probably isn't strong enough to open a book. Breathing is not an attention-grabber.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
You're right to say you need to begin in a different place. I know this because so many first drafts start in the wrong place. It's like a law of nature.

To be perfectly frank the "Yarrod inhaled" line, while fine as an opening for a chapter or scene, probably isn't strong enough to open a book. Breathing is not an attention-grabber.
Yes, but to be fair, the original question was about the opening as a whole not the very first sentence. That can be spiced up at some point. Just to be straight on this: I would see my new idea of starting earlier as a cop out, that's why I'm giving it some time before I commit to the idea. I'd rather like to nail the original idea if possible, if only to prove to myself it could be done.
 

Non Serviam

WF Veterans
OK. The "amnesia" opening has a strong point in speculative fiction in that the main character doesn't know the world, and as he learns about it so does the reader. Starting before the amnesia undermines this strength. So do start at this point in the story if not with these paragraphs.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
OK. The "amnesia" opening has a strong point in speculative fiction in that the main character doesn't know the world, and as he learns about it so does the reader. Starting before the amnesia undermines this strength. So do start at this point in the story if not with these paragraphs.
Exactly. I'm playing with a new POV right now, in which the narrator opens the scene and then hands it off to the protag. I haven't written anything much at this point because I do want to finish chapter 2 first but just as a hint of tone, I've thrown this together. It's not meant to be well written. It's meant to put me in the right head space when I finally get round to revisiting chapter 1:

A split in the sky, cracks in blue porcelain and a figure scratched from shadows.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Tentative new opener. Just trialling it at the moment to see where it takes me. It's a little bit different tonally than Aryngroth's scene but then again, it is from Yarrod's POV:

The chair creaked as the stranger leant forward into the flickering saloon light, mouth a dangerous path cut into the cliff of his face, teal eyes drunken twins looking for a fight. He set his hat square, tightened its leather strap and returned his meaty hand to a tankard of ale.

“Yeah, I’m Yarrod,” He said to the man who had lowered the pianist’s fallboard. “What of it?”

Three other men held court in the centre of the saloon bar. Their presence had quieted the revelry and sent patrons scurrying in all directions. A barman laid a shotgun on the bar, the jangle of disturbed shot glasses drawing Yarrod’s scrutiny a moment before it slipped back to the four men. Only the central figure carried any status, the other three smooth faced boys, lavender scented soap and one flannelling away from a casket.
 
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bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
Tentative new opener. Just trialling it at the moment to see where it takes me. It's a little bit different tonally than Aryngroth's scene but then again, it is from Yarrod's POV:

The chair creaked as the stranger leant forward into the flickering saloon light, [his] mouth a dangerous path cut into the cliff of his face, [something here] teal eyes drunken twins looking for a fight[it seems quite soon for this amount of metaphors per section. Maybe use just one, and be literal with the other descriptor - it just varies the flow a smidge, and seems less 'like writing' and more 'like actual events']. He set his hat square, tightened its leather strap and returned his meaty hand to a tankard of ale.

“Yeah, I’m Yarrod,”
He said to the man who had lowered the pianist’s fallboard. “What of it?”


Three other men held court[<- why not show us what they're actually doing. "hold court" is kind of a placeholder expression. Expanding would also adds detail, richness, and immersion, where 'hold court' reads too rushed. Entice us with your opener. You can always cut excess text in later parts] in the centre of the saloon bar. Their presence had quieted the revelry and sent patrons scurrying in all directions. A barman laid a shotgun on the bar, the jangle of disturbed shot glasses drawing Yarrod’s scrutiny a moment before it slipped back to the four men. Only the central figure carried any status, the other three smooth faced boys[<- again this seems over-edited, too 'cut'. As it was, I misread it at first and expected 3 smooth skinned boys to be actually there, other characters, not just figuratives for the first guys], lavender scented soap and one flannelling away from a casket.
I like it. It is very Name-of-the-Wind, darkened saloon/tavern sort of deal, which is great. A cool and compelling intro to Yarrod, who seems like a Roland of Gilead / Gunslinger type. You asked if it fits with the tone of the second part. I haven't got that in front of me, but it fits with my expectations in general of your stuff. Leaving aside a couple of typos, I would be inclined editorially to do two things here: one - not to over-edit and over-cut (I've pointed out where I think this occurs in green); and two: try not to over-metaphor
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
Yarrod inhaled the hot desert air, unsure he’d filled his lungs with anything substantial.
I've always stumbled over this line when I read it. You say he's unsure, but he inhaled something he was able to tell was hot desert air. It's a contradiction.
He held its fill for a good while, then breathed out slowly and felt the exhalation brush drying lips, once moist skin baked in seconds. The faint earthy scent of backwoods lingered in his nostrils; so at odds with the surrounding terrain, he regarded it more a memory than a sense.

He closed his eyes and clung on, but the aroma and the image it evoked evaporated. When he finally opened his eyes, the present spilled in, and erased any thought of another place or time. Ideas and memories—like scraps tossed to a well-trained mongrel for simple orders met—looped through his mind as if errant ideas in search of reason. And when all was done and settled, he knew but few things … and knew them well.
The reason I didn't connect to this opening, is there's no way to connect to the character. It all feels so ethereal. Nothing is grounded enough for me to see myself in the character's shoes. I'd need a way to orient myself in the character's environment even if you're trying to give us a feeling of confusion and disorientation.
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
Tentative new opener. Just trialling it at the moment to see where it takes me. It's a little bit different tonally than Aryngroth's scene but then again, it is from Yarrod's POV:

The chair creaked as the stranger leant forward into the flickering saloon light, mouth a dangerous path cut into the cliff of his face, teal eyes drunken twins looking for a fight. He set his hat square, tightened its leather strap and returned his meaty hand to a tankard of ale.

“Yeah, I’m Yarrod,” He said to the man who had lowered the pianist’s fallboard. “What of it?”

Three other men held court in the centre of the saloon bar. Their presence had quieted the revelry and sent patrons scurrying in all directions. A barman laid a shotgun on the bar, the jangle of disturbed shot glasses drawing Yarrod’s scrutiny a moment before it slipped back to the four men. Only the central figure carried any status, the other three smooth faced boys, lavender scented soap and one flannelling away from a casket.
Much better IMO. Solid, clear and conflict oriented.
 
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